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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
Though the sign-up bonuses on Chase’s Southwest Airlines credit cards usually hovers around the 25,000-point mark, Chase periodically raises it, and today it relaunched limited-time offers of 50,000 bonus Rapid Rewards points for the Southwest Premier and Plus Visas – both the personal and business version of the Premier and the personal and business Plus cards. To get the full bonus on any of these cards, you must spend $2,000 within 3 months of account opening.
Aside from the value of the bonuses on their own, these bonus points count toward one of the most lucrative travel benefits out there – the Southwest Companion Pass – and now is a good time to try to hit the 110,000 Rapid Rewards points you need to qualify for it since if you do, it will be good through the rest of 2014 and 2015 – up to just about 18 months at this point depending on how fast you can meet that minimum spend.
Chase periodically runs this higher bonus, but you never know if it will come back again and it usually only lasts a few weeks each time. My guess is that these offers will come back again, but possibly not until later in 2014.
Which Card(s) To Get?
The main difference between these two cards is the annual fee. The Premier cards will cost you $99 per year, while the Plus cards are just $69 per year. Other than that, The Premier cards earn 6,000 bonus points every cardmember anniversary (worth about $86 in Wanna Get Away fares) and the Plus cards only earn 3,000 anniversary points ($43 in Wanna Get Away fares). The Premier cards also waive foreign transaction fees, which is good for international travelers.
In terms of redeeming for award seats, you now redeem for Wanna Get Away fares at a rate of 70 points = $1 since the devaluation March 31, 2014, so that means you can get around $715 in airfare with a single sign-up bonus alone.
Chase will allow you to get the sign-up bonus for each card, so you might want to consider also applying for the business version of the Premier or the Business Plus card if you have a small business – and it is possible to get both in one day, so you can potentially bank up to 100,000 points in one go if you can hit the minimum spending for both cards within the allotted time. Also, if you already have one version of one of these cards, say the personal Premier, you can get the other card as well, the Plus in this case, and still get the full bonus.
Apart from the hundreds of dollars in airfare theses bonuses can be worth, the bonus points you earn on this card count towards Southwest’s Companion Pass qualification, which is one of the best frequent flyer program benefits out there. There are two ways to qualify for a Companion Pass. Either fly 100 one-way flights within a calendar year or accrue 110,000 points in a calendar year (every January your qualifying points balance resets to 0 points). You earn Companion Pass Qualifying-points on flights and hotel or car rental partner earning, but also on Southwest’s co-branded credit cards including sign-up bonuses and everyday spending. So with the $2,000 in minimum spend on two cards plus the 50,000 point bonuses, you’re looking at at least 104,000 Companion Pass qualifying points – and you only need 110,000 to get the pass!
Now is a great time for this strategy in particular because if you do manage to get the Companion Pass quickly, it will be good for almost a year and a half, until the end of 2015 – a potentially tremendous value in both saved money and points.
What is a Companion Pass worth? The value of your pass is equal to the value of the dollars and points that you would spend on Southwest flights during the valid period of your pass. So if you are only planning a couple trips in the next few years, your value will be decent but limited. However, if you and your companion travel extensively, or if you tend to commute between cities a lot, your pass could be worth thousands of dollars. Basically, calculate the amount you spend on airfare on Southwest in a year and then add however many more months of use you’ll get out of it in 2014, and you’re looking at a lot of money. Remember, the Companion Pass also counts on award redemptions, so there are even more opportunities.
Using some numbers to put this in perspective, you earn 6x points per $1 on Wanna Get Away fares, so it would take $18,333 worth of flights in the Wanna Get Away fare class to earn the 110,000 points necessary for the Companion Pass just by flying. If you were to pay for those tickets with cash, it would cost an additional $18,333 to add a companion (or more if there is not always another seat available at the same fare class). So, you would save at least $18,333 by starting off with a Companion Pass beforehand.
On the other hand, if you were to earn the 110,000 points needed for the Companion Pass, and just use all of those points to fly with a companion on Wanna Get Away fares at 70 points per dollar (though the rate is actually higher at times) – then the Pass would be worth about $1,570 in free travel.
Even if you don’t want the companion pass, 50,000 Rapid Rewards points are worth almost $715 in Wanna Get Away fares, so it is one of the most solid credit card offers on the market if you fly Southwest a lot.
There are also some other ways to get the Companion Pass without logging all year on Southwest. I recently helped my parents leverage Marriott’s Flight + Hotel conversions to get a Companion Pass for them while booking a hotel stay for myself through a combination of buying Marriott points at 1.25 cents each and transferring Chase Ultimate Rewards points I had racked up on my Ink Plus (which is currently offering a bonus of 50,000 points each when you spend $5,000 in 3 months). By racking up 360,000 Marriott points, I booked what would have been an otherwise prohibitively expensive week-long award stay at the JW Marriott in Cannes and got my dad 120,000 Southwest points – enough for the Companion Pass and then some.
So even if you already have all four of these cards, you still have some options if you think creatively, but these are by far the best, easiest means to rack up Companion Pass qualifying points, and good all-round deals in general, so if you have been considering getting any of the Southwest credit cards, it’s worth doing so while these offers are out there.
Check out these posts for more information on maximizing the offer:
Maximize Monday: Southwest Companion Pass FAQ And Strategies With great travel benefits, 2x points on travel & dining and a 50,000 point sign up bonus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great card for those looking to get into the points and miles game. Here are the top 5 reasons it should be in your wallet, or read our definitive review for more details.
Top 11 Ways To Top Up Your Account For The Southwest Companion Pass
Southwest Points vs. Southwest Credits: When Transferring Makes Sense and How to Check Availability
Can I Get Two Southwest Cards In One Day To Qualify For A Companion Pass
With great travel benefits, 2x points on travel & dining and a 50,000 point sign up bonus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great card for those looking to get into the points and miles game. Here are the top 5 reasons it should be in your wallet, or read our definitive review for more details.
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